Documentary Spotlights 'Wrecking Crew' Behind Hits of '60s, '70s Director Denny Tedesco began filming in 1996 when his father, Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco, was diagnosed with cancer. Many of the people he talked to, including his father, have since died.
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Documentary Spotlights 'Wrecking Crew' Behind Hits of '60s, '70s

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Documentary Spotlights 'Wrecking Crew' Behind Hits of '60s, '70s

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Movie Reviews

Documentary Spotlights 'Wrecking Crew' Behind Hits of '60s, '70s

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Oh, Cinderella, she toiled behind the scenes, was never appreciated as much as she should've been and finally got in the limelight. In a way, that's the story of the Wrecking Crew, a group of LA studio musicians. It's taken decades for their story to reach the big screen. Film critic Kenneth Turan says it has been worth the wait.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Remember this song?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CALIFORNIA GIRLS")

THE BEACH BOYS: (Singing) I wish they all could be California girls.

TURAN: How about this one?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY, MR. TAMBOURINE MAN")

THE BYRDS: (Singing) Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man.

TURAN: Or this...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING")

NANCY SINATRA: (Singing) One of these days these boots are going to walk all over you.

TURAN: The Wrecking Crew was responsible for the musical DNA for so many of the anthems that ruled the airwaves from the 1960s through the early '70s that it makes your head spin. If you listened to the radio during that period, these musicians created your world. Director Denny Tedesco began filming in 1996 when his father, Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco, was diagnosed with cancer. Many of the people he talked to, including his father, have since died, making this genial unpretentious film an invaluable record of rock at its most vibrant. The Wrecking Crew started to get its reputation after producer Phil Spector used them as the key component of his celebrated Wall of Sound. That caught the attention of Brian Wilson, and he used the Wrecking Crew to record The Beach Boys's albums. Band member Al Jardine explains.

AL JARDINE: We were on the road 150 days a year. Brian was getting a little bit more complex in his arrangements. And it just got to be too difficult to coordinate our itineraries. And that's when the Wrecking Crew stepped in.

TURAN: Perhaps the most intriguing member of the Wrecking Crew was its only woman - expert bassist Carol Kaye, who demonstrates how she souped up the bass line for Sonny and Cher's "The Beat Goes On."

CAROL KAYE: Here's the way that "The Beat Goes On" sounded when we first heard it - (singing) la di da da dum.

You know, that's old. The third line I came up with was (playing guitar)...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BEAT GOES ON")

SONNY AND CHER: (Singing) The beat goes on.

TURAN: Once the singer-songwriter model became the norm for the rock business, the Wrecking Crew's star began to wane. But seeing this film underlines how much they accomplished in their prime. As Tommy Tedesco said to his colleagues when the topic of songwriters came up, they put notes on paper. That's not music. You make the music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BEAT GOES ON")

SONNY AND CHER: (Singing) Charleston was once the rage.

GREENE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for the Los Angeles times and, of course, also for MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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